Posted by: catholicrelics | October 2, 2009

Bishop Terence Drainey speaks of an ‘explosion of joy’

Originally uploaded by Catholic Church (England and Wales).

Votive Mass of St Thérèse of Lisieux
2 October 2009


We are going to hear an explosion of joy during this Mass and particularly in the first reading. Words like ‘rejoice’ and ‘be glad, ‘comfort’ and ‘consoling’ are fired at us in quick succession. We are offered a wonderful vision of God, like a mother consoling a child at her breast, dandling her little one on her lap.

We gather to give honour to St Thérèse. She told us through that she would spend her eternity doing good on earth. For that reason she has always been venerated as a great intercessor with the Lord. She never feared boldly asking the Father for whatever she needed. We ask for some of her boldness, some of her trust.

As we enter into this celebration this evening we will have brought many things with us, good and bad, things to rejoice over and things to lament and concern us. Praise God for his goodness, for his mercy and forgiveness. Whatever is burdening us, enslaving us, hurting us, we lay it down before the Lord. In return we will be consoled and comforted, we will be filled with joy and gladness for the Lord will send flowing peace like a river towards us. By his power we will flourish like the grass.


Do children still play ‘Who’s the King of the Castle’? Did you play it? I am pretty sure that it is played everywhere in the country, if not everywhere in the world, perhaps under a different name? Without going into deep philosophical or theological arguments, I would say that it somehow reflects human kind’s flawed nature. Most of us want to be boss, top-dog. We like to dominate if at all possible. And we know that in reality, ‘Who’s the King of the Castle’ isn’t a children’s game at all. It is played out in our lives pretty well everyday. We see it in politics, international, national and local politics, and even family politics. Dare I say if you look very carefully you might even recognise it in Church politics?

The disciples came to Jesus and said: ‘Who is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?’ I suspect that they had to come to the Master to ask this question because they had been arguing among themselves about precisely this point. In St Mark’s version of this gospel passage it was a result of them arguing among themselves. Jesus’ answer to the question is quite shocking, at least to the ones who first heard it. ‘Unless you change and become like little children you will never enter the Kingdom of heaven.’ To use a child as an example of true discipleship must have been so shocking to these great, dominant men, for the child represents the exact opposite of the meaning of greatness. Yet the gospel tells us otherwise; the Kingdom of God is for those who are completely dependent on and fully trust in God. All authentic followers, disciples are equally dependent on God.

Bishop Drainey

In St Thérèse we have a wonderful example of one who completely took to heart this evangelical spirit of child-like trust in, and dependence on God our Father for everything. She describes her Little Way as recognising her nothingness and the child-like expectation that God her Father would provide everything. Everything she did she did for the glory of God, no matter how small or insignificant it appeared. Through her joys she gave praise and thanks to God. Through her sorrows and pains she became more untied to the sufferings of Christ and offered them as a small sacrifice of love in return for his abundant love for her and for all human kind.

For her, greatness could only be measured in terms of love, first of all God’s love for us and then our loving response to that divine love. She was so aware all her life that God was calling her to a special task, vocation. Always she tried to respond to that call positively and radically, giving everything she could – her whole self – for the glory of God. He called her into being and life in her family, she responded with enthusiasm and joy: to consecrated life in the Carmel, she gave an undivided yes; to live out the daily routine of life in the Carmel in an heroic way, she begins to follow her Little Way; to give her life completely in suffering, pain and even darkness, and she trusts everything to God’s providence – “Ah! What darkness! But I am in peace….But God is not going to abandon me, I’m sure. He has never abandoned me.” These were words she spoke the day of her death.

Yes, St Thérèse is a great saint, but that greatness can only be measured by love. She was a young woman who had great vision, great dreams, great desires. Some would say that her dreams and desires were beyond her and could never be fulfilled. There were times when she was very frustrated because she could not find a way of fulfilling them, but then it came to her, as if by a revelation of God himself and that so changed her life, she found the way. Listen to her words again.

“All the gifts of heaven, even the most perfect of them, without love, are absolutely nothing; charity is the best way of all because it leads straight to God. Charity – that was the key to my vocation. Love is, in fact, the vocation which includes all others. It is a universe of its own, comprising all time and all space – it’s eternal. I had discovered where it is I belong in the Church, the niche God has appointed for me. To be nothing else than love, deep down in the heart of Mother Church, that’s to be everything at once – my dream wasn’t a dream after all.”

We are called to be people with vision, dreams and desires. They were put there by the Lord himself and they will only find real fulfilment, genuine satisfaction in him. Through listening to St Thérèse and following her example may we grow in child-like trust of God’s providential love for us and already begin to taste on earth the gifts of the world to come.

Heavenly Father, you will that all people come to share the joys of your Kingdom. After the example of St Thérèse of Liseux, the Little Flower, move our hearts to become like little children. Open our eyes to seek your Way of love and teach us that it is in following you that all our visions, dreams and desires will be fulfilled both here and hereafter through Christ our Lord. Amen

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